« June 8, 2020 | Main | June 10, 2020 »

June 9, 2020

The Golden Gate Bridge Now Sings

Installation of new sidewalk railing slats to better handle wind has resulted in an eerie hum that can be heard miles away.

Back story here.

June 9, 2020 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)

What if people's appearances never changed once they turned 21?


I was looking at Gray Cat the other day and it occurred to me that she seemed unchanged from the day I adopted her back in 2007 when she was three years old.

Then I got to thinking about how it is that animals don't seem to change the way they look over time, at least not very much compared to how people age.

I wonder if relationships would last longer if we remained the same outwardly.

I'm thinking that if when we looked at the other person and saw them exactly as they appeared when we fell in love, love might continue to exist as it did when it first happened.

Just a thought.

June 9, 2020 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)

Ready for my close-up

June 9, 2020 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

"Coronavirus: It only wants targets" — Adam Elkus

Screen Shot 2020-06-09 at 9.01.01 AM

It is incredible that something so small, so insignificant, and aggressively stupid as COVID-19 could be upending the world right now. But it is doing so. As tiny as it is, the virus has the power to inflict significant human harm. It reproduces, it kills, and those it does not kill it may nonetheless leave with lasting injuries. But the virus has another power, a power that makes it uniquely dangerous to Western society: it is utterly stupid. Scientists and philosophers debate whether viruses are even properly counted among the living. But whether it is alive or dead does not matter.

It exists, and the only thing it wants is targets.

It does not think, it does not feel, and it lies totally outside the elaborate social nuances humans have carved out through patterns of communication, representation, and discourse. And this, above all else, makes it a lethal adversary for the West. It has exposed how much of Western society — but American society in particular — is permeated with influential people who have deluded themselves into thinking that their ability to manipulate words, images, and sounds gives them the ability to control reality itself.

They implicitly or explicitly assume that by attaching labels and names to things, they can control them. They implicitly or explicitly behave as if control over narrative is control over the things narrative is attached to. The virus therefore was a problem of psychology before it was a problem of microbiology, because people did not have the "right" attitudes and words for something that in and of itself was incapable of having attitudes or making words. And from the president on down, politicians behaved (and are still behaving) as if it was something that could be spun or narrativized away.

The "reality gap" is often blamed on postmodernism, but this is unfair. Postmodernists were among the first to predict descent into fantasy. One of the core lessons of Theory is that the appearance of reality glitching out is actually reality imposing itself on fantasy. In the 1979 version of "Westworld," the guests enjoy a fake world full of robots that pretend to be vicious killers. When the robots actually become capable of lethal violence the guests devolve into raw panic. This wasn't supposed to happen!

More to the point, it is a pity that Jean Baudrillaud did not live to see Gavin Newsom exempt Disney theme parks from a ban on public gatherings, as the cultural utility of places like Disneyland featured Disneyland very heavily in his theories. As he said, "It is meant to be an infantile world, in order to make us believe that the adults are elsewhere, in the 'real' world, and to conceal the fact that real childishness is everywhere." So what is the problem, then?

There is no one "problem" because watching so many things fail in real time makes it obvious that the failure is diverse and cumulative. We could talk about the primacy of advertising or something closely related to it in shaping our political and media environment. We could go on to examine how decaying legacy institutions projected their own sickness and incompetence onto their rivals rather than living up to their responsibilities. And we could debate the various dueling theories of social and institutional decay that have been bandied about since 2015-2016.

But I would like to return to the obsession with using words to control reality. There were endless attempts early on to compare it to a less-threatening entity, the flu or even the common cold. In doing so, institutional actors tried to take something new and uncertain and fit it into a tame pre-existing mental model that they preferred. Acknowledging the virus as a creature of fate — of fortuna — would be to admit that it could collapse the elaborate machinery for making narrative and reveal the narrative-makers as utterly impotent.

Managing public health and disease was one of the core tasks that helped build the legitimacy of industrial era government in the 19th and 20th centuries. When civil servants are too burdened by bureaucratic red tape and the need to perform political face-work to properly pursue this endeavor, it is a sign that Western society has traded the substance of political competence for its appearance. And more generally, a society that cares more about declining trust in institutions than what institutions have substantively done to deserve trust — and which devotes far more effort towards managing the behavioral psychology of risk than actually reducing risk — is engaged in narrative-making as a singular pursuit above all else.

Which is where our virus comes in. It is a very simple creature, unburdened by all of this discursive weight. To the extent it can be said to have desires and needs, they are very humble. It only wants targets. We lack a working vaccine and estimates vary about how fast we can get one, but it was born with a natural immunity to our capacity to distract ourselves with our silly little language-games. As this seems to be the most powerful weapon our society had up to this point, we will have to go to Plan B: actually doing something to alter the situation instead of hoping that things will change if we come up with nicer-sounding words to describe it.

June 9, 2020 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)

Sega Game Gear Micro

Screen Shot 2020-06-07 at 10.30.20 AM

From Ars Technica:

In honor of the company's 60th anniversary, Sega has announced the coming Japanese release of the Game Gear Micro.

What Sega is calling a "portable mascot" will ship in Japan on October 6 for an MSRP of ¥4,980 (about $50).

No release plans have been announced for other markets.

The "Micro" moniker is well-earned here — the system measures just 3.14"-wide x 1.69" high x 0.79" deep.

That's roughly a 92% volume reduction (or an 86% "footprint area" reduction) from the original Game Gear, which was bulky even by early '90s portable console standards.

Screen Shot 2020-06-07 at 10.13.12 AM

That also means the Game Gear Micro is set to take the "smallest gaming portable" crown from 2005's Game Boy Micro, which held the previous record at 4" ×2" ×0.7" with a 2"-diagonal screen.

Screen Shot 2020-06-07 at 10.13.43 AM

Despite the tiny size, the Game Gear Micro's 1.15" screen manages a 240×180 pixel resolution, which actually improves on the 160×144 pixel resolution of the original Game Gear's 3.2" screen.

That puts the display at roughly 260 pixels per inch, or just short of Apple's roughly 300 dpi "retina display" standard.

Screen Shot 2020-06-07 at 10.13.35 AM

And while the original Game Gear needed six AA batteries (for just three to five hours of play time), the Game Gear Micro can run on two AAAs or a USB micro power adapter.

Sega even managed to squeeze a mono speaker and headphone jack in there, too.

Like previous "plug and play" TV-based retro systems, the Game Gear Micro will only sport a limited selection of preloaded games, with no way to add more (at least officially).

But in what seems like a blatant move to spur the collector's market, Sega is including four different games on each of four different colors of the Micro system.

Here are the lineups:

Screen Shot 2020-06-07 at 10.08.00 AM

Japanese customers who preorder all four models for ¥19,800 (about $200) will also get a working miniature replica of Sega's "Big Window" magnifier to make the tiny screen a little less squint-inducing.

A translucent "Smoke" mock-up model is also available as part of a "DX" bundle from the Japanese Sega Shop, though this model does not actually play games.

Other Japanese shops will offer other bundle freebies like T-shirts and pins.

With the Game Gear Micro, Sega becomes the first company to take the recent trend of self-contained retro systems into the portable realm.

June 9, 2020 at 08:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

« June 8, 2020 | Main | June 10, 2020 »